I once heard a man conclude his 83th birthday speech saying that “The ultimate aim in life is happiness”. His statement had me thinking for awhile. Is happiness really “the” aim in life?
Maybe there might be some truth to his penchant for happiness. Look at it this way – If you were to ask yourself enough times why something is important to you, chances are you will end up with the same answer – so that you will be happy.
Why do I work hard at my job? So that I can get that promotion. Why? So that I can feel the sense of accomplishment and make more money. Why? So that I can enjoy the finer things in life. Why? So that I can be happy!
Why do I get up so early in the morning to exercise? So that I have a healthier body. Why? So that I am stronger and fitter. Why? So that I play better sports and feel more confident about myself. Why? Because it makes me feels good, and… happy!
Happiness is desireable and it matters. But how can we achieve this happiness instantly or more frequently? Too bad that birthday-man left the stage without elaborating on this.
So I decided to spend some time to think about my happiness and how I can have more of it in my own life. With a little reading and reflection, I managed to somewhat quantify the how into 5 ways.
1 – Take ownership control
My happiness is my responsibility. Period. The first step towards a happier me is to acknowledge that I and I alone are in charge of my happiness. It all starts and ends with me.
The tendency is to put the blame on others every time something goes wrong. ‘My son spilled his milk again.’, ‘Bad traffic made me late for my appointment.’
Sure, things can happen and it may not be my fault. I may not have caused it. But I should not put the blame of my unhappiness on others too. My happiness from these situations will largely stem from how I think and how I respond.
So how can I take control of my happiness? Awareness.
Awareness is the state of knowing your own feelings and ability to assess what you are capable of. This involves being able to understand your emotions and what triggers them.
So awareness is a good starting point to be happier today. Be aware that happiness is something you choose for yourself. Every time you start to drift off, get a grip and decide to be happy.
2 – Count the blessings
Gratitude makes us happier. Without going into statistic, the fact that you are reading this in the comfort of your chair shows that you already have a lot to be grateful for. Be grateful that you are healthy, that you have a family that loves you, that you have the ability to earn and enjoy comforts in life.
Research shows that gratitude is good for your well being. It reduces anxiety and depression, helps you become more positive, strengthens your relationships with others, and encourages compassion. It has also been shown to increase your feelings of happiness.
Every time I think that life is tough and there are no reasons to be happy, I think of the many that don’t get a chance to make it as far as I did. On one extreme, poverty, famines, disease and droughts claim thousands of lives each year. Many don’t get a chance with proper education and many others struggle to put food on their tables.
Happy people know they don’t get to be happy all the time. But they know how to appreciate bright moments, little victories, small miracles and the positive encounters that bring real happiness.
Remember not to put your focus on material things either. The path of continual happiness does not come from the latest gadget or a fancy car. Things will come and they will get old or obsolete. Material joys seldom last. Happiness does not have to be derived from things.
Money and things will not make you happy. They will make you comfortable, but not buy you happiness. Happiness is beyond that. Happiness is a state of mind. It is generated from within. It starts and ends with you.
3 – Find your element
When you were young and someone asked you what you wanted to be when you grow up, anything seemed possible. Fireman. Doctor. Soldier. Astronaut. Your answers then were guided by what you thought would make you really happy. There were no limits.
But for many of us, as the years go by, we begin to let our dreams peel away. We settled and allowed our conditions and surroundings to shape us into what was not meant to be.
Research suggests that when you are living your life and making choices that are in line with your values, you’re likely to feel happier.
That is why it is beneficial to spend time thinking and reflecting on what is important and meaningful in your life. When were the times that you felt happiest or most satisfied and what were the common factors in those situations.
For example you may be unhappy now at the office. This dissatisfaction with your job can be traced back to a mismatch in core values. If your company doesn’t value the same things you do, you will feel unhappy even if you like your work.
4 – Give them away
Start being generous with your time and money: research shows that you will be happier for it.
In their book The Paradox of Generosity, sociologists Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson found that Americans who describe themselves as “very happy” volunteer an average of 5.8 hours per month. Those who are “unhappy”? Just 0.6 hours. A total of 2,000 individuals were surveyed over a five-year period in this study. Researchers interviewed and tracked the spending habits and lifestyles of 40 families from different classes and races in 12 states, even accompanying some to the grocery store.
If giving is good for you, why aren’t more people generous? After all you could be generous in your own way. I examined myself and realised that I was actually afraid. Afraid?! Yes, afraid that if I gave away money or time, I would be losing something. I have not been as generous as I could be because in part I was ignorant, but more so I was feeling fear and insecurity.
Now I understand that generosity will give me more than taking away from me.
We may think that we can only be generous once we have made enough money. This is a fallacy because that day will never come. It is in our nature that when we have more, we will want more.
Therefore start giving your time and money to those in need today. You don’t have to look very far. Start with your immediate circle of family and friends, your workplace and then your surrounding community.
Be kind to your spouse. Spring clean your wardrobe; give away clothes that you have not been wearing. How about treating your co-workers lunch? Any non-profits in your community that you can volunteer your time or contribute money to? Look around, and you will start finding opportunities for you to get generous.
Start small and you should be happier immediately.
5 – Do something fun
Indulging in what is fun to you will make you happy. What would you do if you have some time off?
Carve out time for your hobbies. Don’t just think about big hobby projects that requires consideration time and money. Go for the easy wins, hobbies that do not have to take away a big chunks of your time. Plan and book it on your calendar so that you can indulge it without guilt.
Another important thing is you have to be able to choose the activities that are personally meaningful in order to make a difference in the experience level. The ability to choose is very important for happiness.
So the next time you are feeling down, try taking a break and have a little walk. Get outside, enjoy some fresh air. Travel to a new place. Visit the museum. Go to a concert. Studies have shown that the feeling of wonderment and amazement can promote happiness and well-being. Depending on your interest, this overwhelming positive feeling can be derived from going on a beautiful hike, visiting a natural wonder, looking at masterpiece of art, or listening to an incredible piece of music. Once in a while, indulge in activities that will impress and even excite you.
At the end of the day we all know that it is easier said than done. Challenges are a part of life and there will always be ups and downs.
It is important to remember that your life is sprinkled with ample opportunities for discovering happiness. Look for the little things that will make you happy.
Being happy is and will always be, a choice.